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Potential county Transportation Alternative projects considered

By Michael Howell

On February 2, the Ravalli County Commissioners approved sending at least one grant application in for funding from the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The county has been receiving a set amount of funding annually in past years under the Community Transportation Enhancement Program (CTEP). Under the CTEP funding each county received a set portion of the state’s gas tax. Under the new funding arrangement, each county will have to submit proposed projects to the state and the state will award a certain number of the projects statewide.
The county currently has a couple of CTEP projects still underway, the Woodside bike/pedestrian bridge project and the installation of flashing signs at the Corvallis School crosswalks.
The parameters of the transportation projects are similar in the sense that they are funds devoted to transportation-related projects that increase connectivity, accessibility and safety primarily of pedestrians and bicyclists and other non-motorized users.
The commissioners heard several proposals at the meeting. The first three potential projects were presented by Mathew Rohrbach of Bike/Walk Bitterroot. He suggested a bike/pedestrian trail running along Old Corvallis Road from the Fairgrounds to the GSK lab and Pharoahplex cinema at the north end of Hamilton. A second suggestion was a bike/pedestrian bridge over the river at Angler’s Roost south of Hamilton. A third was to develop a bike/pedestrian path along Middle Burnt Fork Road from Logan Lane to Park Lane and from there along Park Avenue to the school. Donnie Ramer from the Hamilton Public Works Department said that the city was in support of developing alternative transportation along Old Corvallis Road.
Bob Cron added to the list the potential of a Rails-to-Trails project developing a pedestrian/bike path along the railroad tracks from the Corvallis Cut-off Road on the north end of Hamilton to Golf Course Road on the south end of town. Cron said that the west side of the right-of-way could be developed without touching the railroad ties and tracks, which Montana Rail Link wants left in place. He said MRL was interested in talking about a project but wanted to see some sort of proposal. He said the company was not interested in giving up any right-of-way but could be interested in leasing.
Allen Bjergo of the Corvallis Civic Club presented another three options including a project at the four-way stop in Corvallis that would involve traffic lighting and cross-walk work; construction of a bike/pedestrian path along Dutch Hill Road from the highway to the top of the hill; and a bike/pedestrian path along the Eastside Highway from the four-way stop south to the railroad crossing.
In an effort to set some priorities, the project of developing a bike/pedestrian bridge at Angler’s Roost rose to the top. One big factor in is favor was that if granted, because it is a project on a state highway no matching funds for the project would be required. It also handily meets the basic criteria of increased connectivity, accessibility and safety of the transportation system.
Rohrbach, of Bike/Walk Bitterroot, agreed to work with County Administrative Assistant Glenda Wiles and MDT official Shane Stack on writing up the grant proposal for the Angler’s Roost bridge project.
The Commissioners voted unanimously to support the development of the application. Commissioner Burrows said that the decision to move forward with this application it did not preclude submitting further applications. But someone would have to get behind it and be willing to develop the finished application by the March 31 deadline for submission.

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